Thinking Fans Comment Update August 22: Bonnie likes GH:NS2 much better than “General Mob” … MontyFan is desperately seeking Holly … Chris says even Gloria would be proud … and more. See Comments below.
So many readers responded to my two earlier columns on General Hospital: Night Shift 2 that I’ve decided to run another very interesting viewpoint. It belongs to my longtime friend Ed Martin, who is a television columnist for www.jackmyers.com.
Ed is a charter member the ”Monty Men,” a group I affectionately invented for my many male soap pals who started watching GH in the late 70s and 80s as teenagers when the legendary Gloria Monty was the show’s executive producer All my Monty Men (I have at least 9 or 10 of them) have watched the show daily ever since, waiting for the show’s magic of that era to remateralize. They are usually a frustrated, complaining bunch. But as he reveals here, Ed and his fellow Monty Men may finally be getting what they’ve longed for thirty years later in this summer’s GH:NS2.
By Ed Martin
It has been a while since I started a column with a sentence I never thought I would write, but here goes: SOAPnet’s General Hospital: Night Shift is one of the most enjoyable original television series of the summer.
A caveat: The low-budget Night Shift may not be everyone’s idea of a sudsy medical drama, especially in the era of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, but damn, it sure delivers the goods. It’s a sexy, spirited, compassionate and totally satisfying soap opera, the likes of which I haven’t seen since the glory days of its once-mighty mother-ship General Hospital way back in the late Seventies and early Eighties.
I hadn’t even seen Night Shift because of my summer travels to the Television Critics Association tour and Comic-Con, and I wasn’t all that interested in devoting time to it in the first place, because the first season of this GH spin-off was one of the most disappointing offerings of 2007. Further, I had been warned that Episode 1 of Season 2 would do little to change my opinion. But I later learned that Episode 2 showed dramatic improvement over the season premiere, so I decided to give it a shot.
While it was true that Episode 1 was about as uninspired as an hour of dramatic storytelling can be (a car crashes into the emergency room, killing the grouchy chief of staff; a young doctor returns to his girlfriend’s apartment after a hard night at the hospital and finds a half-naked hunk in her living room, etc.), I was immediately interested in some of the new young interns and doctors who were introduced during the show – especially alternative medicine practitioner Dr. Saira Batra (Azita Ghanizada); soft-spoken intern Kyle Julian (Adam Grimes) and his arrogant older brother, Dr. Leo Julian (Ethan Rains); and pretty young intern Claire (Carrie Southworth).
By Episodes 2 and 3 they all began to develop into truly interesting characters, especially the Julian brothers. There is much friction between the two, in part because Leo was adopted before their mother gave birth to Kyle, and also because Leo has had trouble accepting the fact that Kyle is gay. Saira, meanwhile, has quickly become one of those wise and loving health care providers that were once a crucial component of GH’s mass appeal (I’m thinking Dr. Lesley Webber, Dr. Gail Baldwin and Nurse Jessie Brewer) and Claire is a sassy fireball who lives largely on junk food, as most overworked hospital staffers do. (That is exactly the kind of real-life detail we no longer see on GH. Back in the day, viewers always saw the characters grabbing coffee and snacks in the hospital cafeteria between their mounting personal and professional crises.)
These are characters I can enjoy or relate to, or both, the likes of which once populated GH, back when it held millions of young viewers in daily thrall. Today, GH is all about temperamental mobsters and self-centered, whorish women, none of whom has much of anything to do with the blasted hospital! Happily, the medical professionals on Night Shift this season appear to be isolated from all that mob-related nonsense. They are characters that are easy to care about, played by actors who are fun to watch. (By the way, Adam Grimes and Carrie Southworth, pictured below, are adorable in SOAPnet.com’s companion series Night Shift: Claire & Kyle.)
There is more to praise. Night Shift spins around the rocky romance of Drs. Patrick Drake and Robin Scorpio, who are expecting a baby in a few months, and it’s a real treat to see two characters of such historical importance to GH be allowed to grow. Robin is a true legacy character who first appeared on GH as the adorable little daughter of super spies Robert Scorpio and Anna Devane; now she is an accomplished medical professional who has been living with and successfully managing HIV for almost 15 years. Patrick is the son of Dr. Noah Drake, the hot doc who was played by rising pop superstar Rick Springfield at the dawn of the Eighties. (Springfield still shows up on GH as Noah from time to time.)
Also, the new Night Shift has brought back two much-missed veteran GH characters – Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers) and cop-turned-FBI agent Jagger Cates (Antonio Sabato Jr.) – and given meaty storylines to both. Robert is battling colon cancer and Jagger has a young son with autism. (I wouldn’t call it tension, but there is huge sexual energy in the air whenever Jagger is near Saira, who is treating Jagger’s son. These two will melt plasma if they ever get together.)
Robert’s scenes of denial with an increasingly angered Robin and his show of vulnerability with head nurse Epiphany Johnson (the invaluable Sonya Eddy) have been marvelous. In a great bit of news, Robert’s ex, Anna (Finola Hughes), will join her family for the final three episodes of the season. (Here’s hoping Anthony Geary shows up as Luke Spencer, Robert’s best friend. It would seem entirely out of character for Luke not to support his pal during his hour of need – unless this aspect of the story of played on GH, which exists in the same narrative frame as Night Shift.)I’m also intrigued by the tentative romance between Epiphany and hospital maintenance worker Touissaint Dubois (Billy Dee Williams), two wonderful characters on the other side of young. This is not exactly a primary story on the show, but it is charming nevertheless.
The Night Shift writers clearly have much affection and respect for the history of General Hospital. When a brain tumor caused Robert to hallucinate he thought he was back in one of the character’s gloriously over-the-top Eighties escapades, calling out for former World Security Bureau agent Sean Donnelly and eluding freaky international crime lord Caesar Faison. When Robin and Jagger were reunited (after 15 years in General Hospital time) they reminisced about Jagger’s brother Stone, the young man who fell in love with Robin (and unknowingly infected her with HIV) before succumbing to AIDS. They also talked about Scott Baldwin’s late daughter Karen, the troubled young woman who married Jagger years ago (and who was actually killed by a supernatural being of some kind on the regrettable GH spin-off Port Charles).
The stories of these characters may not be ground-breaking, but they are totally engaging, some in a fun and relaxed way, others on a level of surprising emotional connection. The same holds for the many different patients who move through the hospital in every episode, often touching the lives of the doctors and nurses with whom they interact. For example, tonight’s episode further explores the difficult relationship between brothers Leo and Kyle when they become caught up in a conflict between a young woman seeking to honor the wishes of her dying partner and the partner’s homophobic parents.
I’ll close with another line I’m surprised to find myself writing: Night Shift is such a pleasant surprise that I wish SOAPnet would run it one night a week all year long! It has made Port Charles fun again.
This column was originally posted on www.jackmyers.com under the headline “General Hospital Night Shift is a Sexy Summer Surprise.”